November 6th, 2016, is a day that will live with me forever. My boss called me into her office and there was a stone still HR woman, shoulder pads and all, sitting in the corner of the room with slight disappointment, and moderate sadness, on her face. I knew this wasn’t warm fuzzy news. I will admit to having mentally checked out months ago, when just in a little over a year I was working under my third different boss. I would even say that after the second boss I started just going through the motions. Simply put, life at Scottish Re was tough and not going well. I was working as an associate actuary doing valuation related activities at a reinsurance company. While I’m sure you think it is truly thrilling and would pounce at the opportunity to ask me all sorts of questions I would respond with a calm, “please, cool your jets.”
I was about to get fired, or I was about 99.9% sure of it. One did not need to be an actuary to figure out that percentage. After an awkward pause of my boss looking at the hr woman my boss got things rolling, “Jack, it’s just not working out and you will no longer be an employee of Scottish Re. This is effective immediately. Do you have anything to say?”
I thought that was a bizarre thing to ask. Um, I’m sorry? Thank you I suppose. What was I to say to that? The only thing that was going through my head was, ‘damn, if only they could have done this like a week ago I could be in north London watching my beloved Arsenal play their rivals Tottenham in one of the greatest football rivalries. And I don’t mean American football. Arsenal, the Kings of London, or more commonly known as the Gunners, were my favorite sports team on earth and the thought of football brought me, albeit only a fraction of a second, some relief.
As a youngster we did not get to watch a lot of European football matches as there was no NBC Sports tv package, that plays essentially every premier league game, like there is today. I was passively a Juventus fan growing up, a team playing in the Italian Serie A. It was more a product of me admiring Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a giant Swedish renegade that happened to be a fantastic footballer, and their black and white chic jersey design than me having a real connection to Juventus. When Juventus got hit with a match fixing scandal in 2006, I was a junior in high school at the time, Juventus was banished to Serie B and Zlatan took off to Inter Milan. I was left seeing him play only rarely and it felt wrong cheering for Inter Milan. Another thing happened in 2006 that caught my attention and didn’t feel so wrong.
It was the USA’s first World Cup game in Germany against the 7th ranked Czech Republic team. The Czechs had a Juventus player in Pavel Nedved who was world class but the rest of the Czechs were total unknowns to me. My buddies and I were sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings in Bay City, Michigan excited for the first five minutes only to be deflated upon the Czechs scoring off a header. About thirty minutes later I saw a goal that would, no joke, change the trajectory of my life. This little Czech guy with long brown hair, blue Nike shoes, absolutely cranked a ball from about thirty yards out. He was on the left side of the field and the ball screamed through the air and went into the upper right corner of the goal leaving the goalkeeper zero chance of saving it. The little Czech man’s reaction was one of just uncontrolled joy as he outstretched his arms to welcome the hugs of his teammates. This dude was total class personified and I still feel tears coming on when I watch that play. His name was Thomas Rosicky and after that World Cup he would be transferred from Borussia Dortmund, in the German Bundesliga, to Arsenal, in the English Premier League. The rest is history.
I took a deep breath and exhaled, staring at the round table between my boss, the hr lady, and me as it was hard for me to look them in their eyes, “I have to say I feel quite relieved. I could tell something was off with me being here. Thanks for the opportunity I suppose.” A few short moments later, after signing some release forms, which included a generous severance, I realized I would not be coming back here. And while I was scared some I also felt liberated.
Little did I know that this firing would set off a chain of events that would change my life forever.